KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Kingsport Fire Department’s (KFD) original fire truck has been restored to its original condition, the department announced Monday.
The project, completed in the spare time of Kingsport’s Fleet Maintenance division employees, took over two years and has now “brought the classic piece of Kingsport history back to its former glory,” the city said.
“It’s incredible to think you’re working on the first fire truck the city ever bought,” Fleet Maintenance Manager Steve Leonard said. “It was good to be part of the project. Not everyone gets to work on something like that.”
The first engine, a 1917 American LaFrance named ‘Old Huldy,’ went into service over 106 years ago, and was reportedly Kingsport’s only fire truck.
Old Huldy’s top speed was 30 miles per hour and had to be started by hand cranking, the city said. The engine carried horses, wooden ladders, axes and approximately 100 gallons of water.
“We weren’t doing it justice having [the engine] sit out there and the structure just wasn’t secure enough,” said Assistant Chief Terry Arnold. “At that point, we decided to take it and have it restored.”
Fleet Maintenace was able to restore Old Huldy back within 80-85% of its original condition.
“One employee instrumental in bringing the engine back to life was Technician Brian Painter,” the city said. “In his spare time, Painter fixed oil leaks, dealt with wiring issues and made the coupling for the ignition system. Tires were replaced, necessary internal parts were purchased and through the hard work of many fleet maintenance employees, the job got done.”
Old Huldy is housed in Fire Station #1 downtown and will eventually be put on display in Fire Station #2, once built, the city said.
“Compared to what we see today in cars and trucks, it’s been like taking a step back in time and seeing how simple things were then,” Leonard said. “We’re just thrilled we were able to restore Old Huldy and be able to share this piece of Kingsport history with the community.”